Rewilding is ‘deadlier to a mountain hare than a 12 bore shotgun’, apparently

If you’re in need of a good laugh this Christmas then it’s worth sparing four minutes to watch this GWCT video entitled ‘How grouse management is helping waders thrive in the Highlands’. GWCT has been promoting it as part of its response to the Werritty Review.

The video features gamekeeper Ronnie Kippen who works in Strathbraan – the area where SNH issued a load of gamekeepers with licences to kill ravens in 2018 ‘just to see what happens‘ (the licence was later withdrawn after a legal challenge exposed the GWCT’s ‘completely inadequate’ scientific rationale for the licence and a further licence application in 2019 was also refused).

It turns out it’s not just ravens that have been targeted in this area – gamekeepers have turned their attention to jackdaws – which we already knew about to some extent after a load of dead birds were found dumped in Loch Freuchie earlier this year (see here and here).

However, according to Ronnie earlier this year SNH issued them with a special licence permitting the use of jackdaws as decoy birds inside Larsen traps. Jackdaws are not listed as a permitted decoy species for Larsen traps on Scottish General Licence GL01 (just carrion and hooded crows and magpies) so we’re very curious about this licence and particularly on the quality of the ‘evidence’ (of purported damage to waders by jackdaws) submitted in the gamekeepers’ licence application. We’ve submitted an FoI to SNH and will report back in due course.

Meanwhile, there are some other crackers in this video.

According to Ronnie, “I can assure you, rewilding or land neglect is deadlier to a [mountain] hare than a 12-bore shotgun“. Er, ok, Ronnie, if you say so.

He also churns out the old favourite that ‘75% of the world’s heather moorland is found in the UK’ (although Ronnie claims it’s all in Scotland). This line has been repeated over and over and over again in recent years, and not just by the grouse shooting industry but also, occasionally, by conservationists as well. Those from the Dark Side often use it as justification for protecting grouse shooting.

Dr Steve Carver (@LandEthics) has written a robust and fascinating rebuttal of this claim and it’s well worth a read (here) to put things in to perspective.

25 thoughts on “Rewilding is ‘deadlier to a mountain hare than a 12 bore shotgun’, apparently”

  1. The day GWCT and all the other initials allow independent monitoring of wader populations on shooting estates we might begin to believe a scintilla of what they say. Until that time their every utterance should be treated as the propaganda it is and consigned to the bin.

    With all of the over-population of Red Grouse taking up all available habitat it is hard to envisage just what room there is for these massed ranks of Curlew, Golden Plover, Lapwing, etc. Reduce Red Grouse numbers to the normal carrying capacity of the environment and see what happens to the other moorland breeding species. I will lay odds that is a much better conservation measure than illegally killing protected birds of prey and mammals!

    1. I think we should be careful when we start to speak of Red Grouse as if we’re denigrating them, giving even the slightest impression we’re blaming the victims as well as the murderers. I can just imagine how the grouse-shooting fraternity might react if they heard us wishing to reduce Red Grouse numbers, because they might retaliate with “but we’re already doing that for you, so what’s the problem?” We understand Simon Tucker’s logic, but it could easily be twisted by ‘the opposition’ and their so-called ecologists of the somewhat biased variety. The Red Grouse of the UK requires a break from barbaric behaviour by human beings, if the humane sector can continue to get its act together and engender a society proud to value and respect all of our wildlife and its place in the web of nature.

  2. ‘Kippen’… From the Dark Side ..SGA! Depicted as follows: [Ed: rest of this comment deleted. Take the mick, by all means, but please don’t be personally abusive]

  3. Jackdaws as major nest predators, mmmm, I think the correct response is bollocks. What the hell were SNH doing allowing these ne’rdo wells use jackdaws as Larsen decoys. Its the usual mix of a tiny bit of truth, lots of half truth and mostly complete bullshit you expect from these wildlife killers. Perhaps the waders would do much better if there wasn’t such a surfeit of easy prey items ( grouse and their nests) attracting high numbers of meso-predators.
    If that oaf bothered to find out he would discover there are plenty of “White hares” in that open heather scrub, woodland and tundra throughout Scandinavia. Natural habitats have much more to offer than high density grouse, traps, snares and stink pits. Time he, his friends, supporters and outmoded ideas was consigned to the waste bin.

    1. Paul is quite right. Having spent five recent autumns in Finnmark in Arctic Norway I can confirm that Mountain Hares are very abundant in the taiga woodlands whose understorey is domminated by dwarf shrub heath. There are also far more predators both mammalian and avian and yet there are also thriving populations of Willow Grouse, Black Grouse and Ptarmigan – funny that. What’s more hunting in Norway is strictly regulated and those regulations are extremely well observed. I have spent time with many hunters and the contrast with the UK could not be more stark – they are in my experience extremely good naturalists, committed to sustainable hunting and happy to spend a day in the field and not shoot anything. It’s actually like a parallel universe!

      1. My epiphany was after spending a fortnight hiking on Hardangervidda in Norway about 20 years ago. I knew something about raptor persecution here and knew that we had created a unnatural monoculture but i suppose somewhere i thought all that heather was pretty. To see Norway is something else. You almost wished you could just start munching on the richness of the vegetation yourself. I am not being metaphysical, it made me hungry looking at the lushness. We have been gaslighted into believing that UK grouse moors are natural. They are biological deserts. You only have to look, no need for decades of scientific studies. Very little Willow Grouse though (one small group) but my only Gyr Falcon and plenty of Rough-legged Buzzards.

  4. Not even going to watch that video because it sickens me to hear the “same old” from the flat-capped, tweed-clad brigade. The grouse conservationists aren’t at all interested in wading birds; they’re just using them as propaganda, rather an excuse to carry on with their ill-gotten work on the uplands. I’d rather see re-wilding, with many more trees, rather than more waders. Climate change isn’t going to improve by increasing wader numbers, and waders aren’t going to fare well with climate change.

    1. Who knows whether waders will be disadvantaged by climate change? I’m no climate expert, but if rainfall increases to replenish otherwise dried-up peatlands (caused by all those drainage ditches), waders might benefit. On my ‘patch’ (three conjoined grouse moors), already heavily drained, there were several breeding pairs of Dunlin, a typical peatland breeding wader surprisingly ignored by the shooting fraternity. Why? Maybe because they’re too small to mention, or perhaps they don’t notice them. However, my study area of moorland was dredged even deeper about ten years ago, and the Dunlin have disappeared (as have most of the grouse, interestingly), The SNH ‘solution’? Burn, burn, burn (perhaps I’m exaggerating, and that information did come second-hand from from two separate hill sheep farmers), but that also ended up burning valuable peat in the process., and killing potentially hundreds of voles, common lizards, amphibians, invertebrates and their larvae, also a great deal of botanical biodiversity, including orchids and sundews. Ronnie Kippen doesn’t have a clue about Curlew biology, as he didn’t explain that Curlews might nest among heather, but that their main feeding grounds are on nearby improved grassland, in the uplands usually on riverine flood plains. Maybe he should exchange his firearms for a decent pair of binoculars.

  5. They got the “Game Conservancy” to verify it (Curlew productivity), so that’s robust science then? If they want any credibility then they need to allow independent monitoring (as Simon Tucker says above).

    Such an obvious self interest promotional video, the presenter/interviewer was about as much use as a chocolate fireguard ….

      1. Yes isn’t it funny all these videos and pictures of curlew and other waders doing so well on grouse moors yet heather seems to be conspicuous by its absence again and again and again. You never hear these characters say how great grouse moors are for bats, juniper, capercaillie, incoming migrant birds that need berries to feed on, pollinators that can’t use heather or need other flowers when it’s not in bloom, species that like scrub or even bracken which is not the barren habitat they like to pretend it is, aquatic wildlife affected by muirburn etc, etc, etc.

        1. Don’t forget the mountain hares being ruthlessly persecuted for no apparent reason, reptiles/amphibians, voles which are so important for harrier and short-eared owl productivity, various mammals which are virtually persecuted to near-extinction thanks to Victorian ‘wisdom’ rather than modern science, and invertebrate populations decimated by muirburn, which also pollutes upland streams, etc, etc, etc.

  6. Yet another diatribe of rubbish from a gamekeeper pretending to be a naturalist. Such ignoramuses rarely have a bloody clue what they seem to be making up when being interviewed by a journalist, who also knows next to nothing so can’t deliver probing questions to the gamekeeper! Gamekeepers who crow-trap Jackdaws are being ridiculous; these small crows are virtually harmless, and I for one have focussed on breeding waders for around fifty years, and I can’t recall any eggs or young being predated by Jackdaws. Carrion Crows occasionally, and Kestrels taking chicks a few times, but rarely if ever Jackdaws. And what was that guff about gamekeepers not massacring Mountain Hares? Unfortunately the ignorant shooters ‘down the pub’ will reiterate the nonsense uttered by this gamekeeper. The so-called “truth” about the dedicated conservation workers called gamekeepers will be widely agreed by honest people who don’t know any better. We’ve a long way to go enlightening so many people by applying sensible conservation education. Schools could do better.

  7. I regularly ‘cross swords’ with Ronnie Kippen on social media, believe it or not in the video he was comparatively eloquent…comparatively. Usually when I type in a comment he just clicks on the ‘ha ha’ emoticon in response. True enough I use it too, but usually like to explain why. Ronnie not so much! You can put forward an argument, backed up with stats, facts and at least anecdotal evidence, but Ronnie rarely sticks with it after your first rebuttal of his points – they tend to crumble very quickly.

    1. Les, to which social media site do you refer? I’d like to cross swords with Ronnie Kippen at least once, mainly to test his response to some home truths, with which I’m sure you will be familiar. I’m not sure I want his gang to be allowed to submit abusive comments to RPUK, hence wishing to deal with him on another social medium.

  8. I very much doubt that Jackdaws will be any threat to Curlews or Lapwing nests, Carrions and Hoodies yes but the Jackdaws would soon be seen off the Lapwings and Curlews patch, same for rooks, harmless .

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